Danny Abramowicz (third from left) on the set of his EWTN show "Crossing the Goal." He is joined by his three co-hosts, Peter Herbeck, vice-president of Renewal Ministries; Curtis Martin, founder of Fellowship of Catholic University Students; and professional broadcaster Brian Patrick. "Crossing the Goal" provides real solutions to the spiritual challenges men face.
Danny Abramowicz says his fondest memory in his professional football career was when he was first drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 1967. His fondest memory in his spiritual life was when his children and grandchildren said how he has inspired them.
Maybe you've been clicking the remote lately. Maybe you've stumbled upon what looks like ESPN's SportsCenter, only it's not. It's men with a lot of adrenaline — yes. But they are not speaking about point spreads. They're speaking about the salvation of souls.
Yep, stay tuned. This is no game. Danny Abramowicz, former NFL all-pro wide receiver and coach, is now hosting his own show on EWTN Global Catholic Network called "Crossing the Goal," which debuted Sept. 5. In the following interview, Danny, a Divine Mercy devotee, explains why the show, why now, and what's the problem with men anyway:
So how did you get from NFL party boy to high-profile proselytizer?
I was brought up Catholic in Steubenville, Ohio. When I got drafted into the NFL out of Xavier University in the 17th round in 1967 and started having some success, I made a choice in my life to go down a road that wasn't too good — drinking and carousing and all that kind of business. But I still went to Mass, even though sometimes I was half in the bag or hung over. That went on for several years. Finally, I retired, and I went out into the business world and continued with the same kind of behavior. Finally, one day I woke up and was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I looked at my wife and three kids and said to myself, "I've got to change." I went in to shave and looked myself in the mirror and hated myself. I went and sought help. A priest friend introduced me to a man who finally convinced me to go to Alcoholics Anonymous on Dec. 15, 1981.
I've read how Alcoholics Anonymous eventually made you "sober, but not serene." How did you become serene?
I attended a "Life in the Spirit" seminar, which I thought was crazy, until they drew three circles on a board and said these three circles represent all of us in the world. With the first circle they drew a cross just outside of it. In the second circle, they drew a cross just inside of it. And in the third circle they drew a cross in the center of it. Those circles represent our relationship to Jesus Christ in our life. Of course, the first one I couldn't relate to. It had the Lord nowhere in your life. I had the Lord in my life, but He wasn't the center of my life. The center of my life was my alcohol and my ego. So my family, my job, and my God revolved around me. I wasn't allowing Jesus to be number one in my life, the Ruler, the King. I knew I had to really make Him number one, permanently. Once I did that, my life started changing. I grew deeper in prayer life. My priorities started changing because I opened the door to my heart and allowed Him to come in, and He started working in my life through the power of the Holy Spirit. We all want the quick fix all the time. It's not a quick fix; it's a long haul. But you have to have that Power Source in your life: the Holy Spirit. I learned that the Holy Spirit is not some bird flying around out there. He dwells in each of us. We all want a personal trainer for our physical workouts, but we have the greatest spiritual trainer of all — the Holy Spirit through Baptism and Confirmation. The problem is, we just don't call upon Him, and if we don't call on Him, we will resort back to our old ways.
Your ministry is geared toward men. Why specifically men?
Men have dropped the ball. They've dropped the ball as spiritual heads of the family. You go to church wherever, and what do you see? You see young women in there with two or three kids and no man around. Why's that? Where is he? Fishing? Golfing? There's nothing wrong with those things, but you have to do first things first. The devil's done a good job. He's said, "Weak people need the faith. That's the responsibility of the woman to do that." That's a lie. The man needs to take on the role of spiritual head of the family. When the father of the house is involved with faith practices of the family and teaching, the kids respond tremendously. Boys especially — they love Mom, but they want to follow Dad. Men have taken care of our families in terms of education, physical needs, all these things, but the most important — the spiritual — we don't take care of that. That doesn't make any sense.
What's striking about your show is how you've cleverly keyed in to one of men's biggest obsessions: sports.
I thought, "What do men really like? They like sports." The most watched television show for men is ESPN's SportsCenter. So we built a set that's similar, and we have segments that include "The Kickoff," where the problem of the day is quickly presented; "The Game Plan," where two team members lay out the facts men need to know; "The Red Zone," where the team talks about how they've dealt with the problem in their own lives; and "The End Zone," where each team member gives the audience a take-away for the week. The way I see it, guys don't say to each other, "Hey, let's grab a six-pack and watch some EWTN." That's not going to happen. Guys are going to be surfing through the channels, and they're going to see us and stop, and this will catch their eye. And of course the subject matter has to pertain to men, and I think we've done a good job talking about issues pertaining to men.
What issues have really struck a chord with your audience?
Internet pornography, courage, perseverance, temperance — these kinds of things.
Also, you seem to take great pains to not chastise men for their obsession with sports, business, and other hobbies.
Yes, but my point always is that the spiritual part of our lives should be number one, and we're not even giving it a second thought. We've taken God out of every aspect of our lives. Show me where the Lord is welcomed. I defy people to go out and say to someone "God bless you" and see what people's reaction is. They don't know what to say. They have no idea, or they're ashamed of it or it makes them uncomfortable. Yet, they'll go act like jackasses at a football game or a rock concert and think nothing of it. But to say the Lord's name is impossible for so many. My whole point is, at least think about it. If you listen to the Oprahs of the world and the Donald Trumps and CBS, NBC, FOX, and the CNNs, they say, "You have the power." We haven't got the power to do anything without the power of the Holy Spirit in our life. So I try to get guys to realize that, or at least to look at it.
Are there any skills from your football career that serve you well in your ministry?
Yes. Perseverance. The Lord gave me a talent: I could catch a football. I wasn't very big or very fast, but I made it in the NFL. That same work ethic and passion I had to succeed in football, I have that same passion when I'm delivering Jesus Christ's message.
Why is the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy so important to you?
Well, I pray it daily. That, and the Rosary. One, it's so simple. We pray for God's mercy on us and on the whole world. Right now we better pray for mercy, and I think it's important that we begin with praying for mercy for ourselves. We have to look at ourselves. We point the finger and blame everyone else for problems, but we have to look in the mirror and start with ourselves. If we want something changed, we have to start with changing our hearts. We have to ask the Lord to change us. The Divine Mercy Chaplet is a simple prayer, but it's very effective and powerful.
Anything else you wish to add?
Watch the show. And also, what I tell people is that they really need to start a prayer life, go to Mass more, and pray to Mary and pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Otherwise, you're just playing a game out here. It's time to get serious.
"Crossing the Goal" airs at 6:30 p.m. EST Sundays and re-airs 9 p.m. EST on Fridays and 6:30 a.m. EST on Mondays.